I woke up a bit later than usual that day.
By some good fortune, the baby had decided to sleep in a bit. Taking advantage of this rare moment of freedom, I decided to check my email and futz around on the internet. The Yahoo! homepage looks so weird. Huge pictures of a flaming, smoke-filled cityscape. Multiple 18 and 20-point bold font headlines, that before I can even read them, tell me that something huge must have happened. I read their words, and for a few seconds, actually manage to convince myself that this is a mistake; a prank. Yahoo! has been hacked. Grasping at any reason at all that this could be anything but true and actually happening.
I run in a daze from the office to the living room and turn on our tv. I don't know what channel. It didn't matter. Every channel was the same. Manhattan in flames and utter panic and chaos spreading in near silence. Even the polished anchormen and womens voices warble and crack now and then, as they try to describe and speculate on what has and is unfolding. My brain hears but doesn't comprehend. I only see and feel rending horror and grief.
It's hard to look away. If I stay, keep my vigil, will the energy of my quaking heart, combined with a million others, be enough to stop it?
I turn off the tv, and go pick up my sleeping baby. She curls into me like a boiled shrimp and burrows her sleep-damp head into the hollow of my neck. I breathe in her smell. One slow breath after another, in an attempt to adopt her drowsy rhythm and not allow her to sense my panic or hear my racing mind. Outwardly calm, inwardly screaming. One deep sweet, baby-scented breath, then another. Trying to stem the tide of horrified thoughts of the future, both immediate and long term. We're going to war. Jimmy is going to war! God! Are we safe here? Why is it so quiet right now? Will Olivia grow up doing air-raid drills like my mother's generation did? Where is Billy? I want Billy home with me RIGHT NOW!
I maintained my outward calm as best I could. I didn't want the baby to hear me cry, and I surely didn't want her seeing the tv. So I spent the better part of the day in an informational blackout, all the while dying to know what more had been learned about what happened, and what could be done to help. But I didn't dare turn on that tv. If I could keep the horror from touching her, than nothing else mattered.
I remember it perfectly. Sometimes I wish I didn't.